Anton Zdziebczok: New Chief Product Officer

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Anton Zdziebczok. Anton joins the team as Chief Product Officer to lead NorthRow's product strategy and vision. Anton has a wealth of experience delivering innovative products within FinTech. To mark the occasion I sat down with Anton to ask questions on the challenges of product development, how to deliver solutions that your clients will love and what the future holds at NorthRow. Here’s what he had to say.

Posted on October 28, 2020
Written by Rebecca Angus

You have an interesting surname – can you explain its origin?

Absolutely! It comes from my grandfather, who migrated to England from Poland after the Second World War. It makes booking restaurants practically impossible, learning how to spell my name when growing up was also a challenge.  

How has your career led you to NorthRow? 

It started at college, working part-time fixing computers, building new features and networks which subsequently led to various roles before moving to MBA Systems in 2009 as a support analyst. After a couple of years, I progressed to managing the application support team that helped facilitate approx. $1bn of daily transactions. We worked within Asian and US markets 24/7, which took its toll, so a move to the sales & marketing team swiftly followed.

I thoroughly enjoyed talking to customers to gain an understanding of their problems and how to find solutions and soon recognised I wasn’t a salesperson, that was happy pushing the value proposition and closing the deal.  

In 2015 MBA Systems were acquired by a Swiss PLC CREALOGIX. Through the acquisition, it became evident that CREALOGIX had a more efficient process when it came to product development. No longer did the business have to create bespoke products for each customer. I was soon tasked with improving the UK product management processes in my role as Head of Product Strategy and then latterly, joining the Global Product Management team.

What’s been most surprising about your journey?

Probably, for me, the most surprising part of my journey was during the CREALOGIX acquisition. It was reassuring to see that the same challenges were being faced by another company. Essentially how to maintain a sensibly structured product while balancing different customer’s needs – or the delivery of the day-to-day demands of customer A whilst not impacting customer B. I realise now why product management is essential. It enables the business to elucidate the detail around the problems in order to deliver an effective solution.

What’s the key challenge for product development? 

Competing demand and pressure as there’s always more ideas than you have time to develop. So it’s a balance of resource versus expectations.

Some of those ideas are going to generate new revenue streams; some are going to secure existing revenue; others simply won’t help the bottom line, but they may generate some buzz. The challenge for the product team is to ensure the business has the right mix to enable growth whilst delivering a great customer experience.  

 How do you ensure you deliver products that customers use?

That’s a great question, the reality is sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t. The difference between the two is how much focus you put into understanding the customer’s drivers early in the process.

In spending time upfront researching and reviewing the marketplace provides a good starting point. Again, it’s about understanding the drivers rather than starting with a raft of code. 

Understanding the customer’s needs and solving their problem is vital.  Keeping them in the loop throughout the development process will ensure you present the best solution

There are many different ways to solve the problem. What might seem the most logical may not be the best from an operational perspective for your customer. So I think for me, the key is to get the ideas and concepts of new features and functionality out to customers as early as possible. It is good to ensure you have multiple perspectives too, otherwise, you will have a bias to represent a very narrow view.

As technologists, we like technology and building code. But it has to be focussed on alleviating a customer’s pain point in the most productive and efficient way. It’s not going to succeed as a product if it doesn’t solve a problem. For me, demand-side product management is key as this approach is much more structured and quantitative. 

How do you ensure you deliver products that customers use?

Starling bank is an excellent example of a Bank nailing a product. I’ve been a loyal customer for some time now and their App is awesome. I use traditional Banks for credit cards and main accounts, and Starling for my day-to-day transactions due to the user experience. 

It strips away anything you don’t need, the minute you log in you instantly view a summary of your daily transactions and live balance. Using great visuals you have a high-level view of segmented expenditure. It’s nothing earth-shatteringly different, just simplified for improved user experience which is something that the traditional Banks have yet to adopt. 

One of the things I’ve learnt is that product management is about saying no to ideas the majority of the time. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but if you think about some of the best companies in the World, who deliver the best value propositions, they’re really focussed and easy to explain. 

Why did you choose NorthRow?

The NorthRow proposition and growth strategy, combined with a great product and team, inspired me to come onboard. I relish the opportunity to be part of the ambitious journey and to use my experience of demand-side product management to benefit the business.

I have previous experience of onboarding and registration and know that the process for complex AML and KYC can be simplified. NorthRow has an existing track record for developing digital solutions that not only fulfil the tick box exercise of compliance but more importantly drive a better customer experience. I’m excited to join the team and expand the delivery of these automated solutions further as the progression of AI, machine learning and good social governance takes hold.

What will you bring to the NorthRow team?

Apart from a lot of chatting about tennis and cars? Hopefully a different perspective, viewpoint and attitude to the problem-solving approach to product development. By reviewing the data and analysis and leading the team to deliver the best conclusion to build the best solution for our customers. 

I think I might have danced next to Natalie Portman in the Globe Theatre, but I’m not entirely sure!